Tag: life’s curveballs

Toddler + Train = ?

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The infamous slow Korail trains.

While in Korea and Japan, our mode of transport between cities and towns was trains. We had decided that without vehicles of our own, trains would be a good way to see the countryside, have our own seats and also some aisle space for the Little Mister to walk up and down if he got particularly restless. It was also fairly affordable (although tickets for the bullet trains (‘shinkansen’) in Japan were kind of pricey they were worth it). The Little Mister could travel for free (without a seat) or we could pay for a full ticket so he could have a seat of his own in both countries. Reserved seating was definitely the way to go, because we knew for sure then that we would be fairly comfortable and would definitely get from point A to B on a chosen day at a set time. We had a crazy schedule to keep up so we could see everything! EVERYTHING!

Now, I could sing the praises of the fast ‘bullet’ trains in both countries forever. They were fast, efficient, comfortable and saved us hours we might have spent on a bus or in a car. The Little Mister rarely had time to complain or get restless – rarely is not never, but hello, toddler! Just imagine how fast you could see Australia if we had them! Crazy awesome.

The issues we had came when we had to take a slow train in Korea. Twice. For about six hours each time. We did it from Seoul to Gangneung and from there to Gyeongju. They just didn’t have the facilities in place to do anything else (although they might by the time the Winter Olympics are hosted near Gangneung). A bus might have been faster, but we’d booked the tickets ahead of time and had not got an extra seat for the Little Mister because we’d tried to save a little moolah and probably just thought he’d be comfortable enough. We had an iPad and all the other parenting tools we’d used on the plane – he’d flown well, so a train would be just as good, right? They were our first train experiences on our trip, so I guess you live and learn!

The Little Mister did NOT like the fact that he didn’t have his own seat. He wanted to be all grown up and independent. Daddy’s lap or a little space squeezed between Mummy and Daddy would NOT cut it. He knew the difference. He knew when he was getting ripped off. Also? Turns out that seat belts are the key. If he has a seatbelt, he’s as happy as a clam. If he doesn’t? FREEEEEDOM!!! The trains did not have seat belts. Need I say more?

Occasionally, there would be some free seats for a few stops and we’d be able to let the Little Mister sit in one. This made for more peaceful travelling. Until…the person who had reserved the seat hopped on and he got mad that someone had ‘stolen’ his seat. The iPad was not always good enough for him and while we had imagined he’d love staring out the window at the scenery, with all the cars on the roads and unusual buildings and bridges etc, he was too busy being mad at the fact that he couldn’t do it from his very own seat or that we wouldn’t let him climb up to a precarious vantage point (or one that might annoy another passenger). Fun times!

After the first six hour journey, we were definitely dreading the second one. It was a trying time. I admit my stress levels were not as low as I would have liked them to be! There was the anticipation of another crazy train ride with a 2.5 year old, plus I was feeling a bit emotionally off balance and anxious as we got a bit closer to my own birth place. Turned out this train ride was much busier than the one we’d done before. People could board the train without having reserved seats. Which meant that in the last couple of hours, everyone was stacked together standing in the aisles like cattle on a truck. We had seats but we were getting increasingly closed in on, with Mr Unprepared complaining about the fact that his face was in some dude’s butt or crotch for much of the journey. The Little Mister was angry at the ladies who had taken his ‘spare’ seat (the one in front of us). One of the ladies kindly (that’s sarcasm) reclined her seat ALL THE WAY while we tried to keep him on our lap in already squishy conditions. At one point he wanted to play with her hair and I was tempted to let him haha. Especially when he was whinging and she looked behind and gave him a dirty look. Ooooh, I wanted to pull her hair too right then. Yeah, people complain about children on shared transport, but not all of them are angels either! Apparently, my brother was stuck a few rows up next to a man who kept chewing and regurgitating his food over and over, in between making disgusting throaty sounds. YUM (more sarcasm).

It was just overwhelming and we could not comfort the Little Mister for the life of us. He had skipped a much needed nap that we had naively hoped he would have on the six hour journey and he was MELTING DOWN. I swear time slowed down just to spite us at that point! Even my parents couldn’t keep him still for too long at a time (usually the grandparents have the magic touch). At one point I just started to cry a little. I wanted to have a tantrum too, but damn it, I was the grown up. It was just hell on earth. I don’t often lose my patience with the Little Mister (we’re talking almost never – don’t worry I have other flaws haha), but I admit I did a couple of times on our trip. It was just intense and there was often nowhere to go. We were all just…stuck. I couldn’t go and cool off. He couldn’t get up and walk the aisles. No-one could get a break. The stress! Not to mention, we hadn’t slept awesomely for a few nights because the Little Mister was sharing the bed with us!

From then on, we resolved to get the Little Mister his own seat whenever there was one available. For the rest of the trip. Money would be no object! We would pay anything!!! ANYTHING! At that point, I probably would have remortgaged the house just to have some peace haha. On the few times we couldn’t get an extra seat, the trips were really short or the seats were really wide and the Little Mister couldn’t tell that it wasn’t ‘his’. Thank goodness! He was still often restless, but there was nothing like that second 6 hour trip. I don’t think we could have survived it!! The best part of going through that? At the end of that hellish 6 hour train ride was the comfort of knowing it would never happen again. PHEW!

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Shinkansen in Japan. Fast train. Fast is good.

R U OK?

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Have you ever been in Struggletown (like really really trying to hold onto sanity) and not had the words to tell someone about it? Have you ever felt like talking to those close to you might make them feel burdened with your problems, so you hold onto them tight? Have you ever been scared that you might be considered to be whingey and mopey if you tell people what you’re really going through? Scared you’ll bring everyone down? Annoy them? Or have you held secrets about your well being close to your chest and not known how to express them or feel safe doing so? Have you ever felt that crushing fear of being vulnerable? Putting your heart out on your sleeve?

I have. Many a time. Let’s face it. I’m Kez and I am sh*t at asking for help. I am sh*t at telling people the deep, dark stuff. Truly. You wouldn’t think it. I’m such a bloody chatterbox and I am generally quite in touch with my feelings. I can talk about feelings quite well (mostly in writing or in counselling) but there’s only so far I can go when I am truly having a rough time. It’s not that I don’t trust anyone, far from it. I get scared that I’m going to be that high maintenance friend. That drama llama. Oh, yes. That Kez. She’s got *whispers* issues. All the time. Or sometimes I’m scared that if I say it out loud, I’ll be judged or worse, hurt even more.

I’ve often been known to use my smile to cover my vulnerabilities. Lots of positive talk. A bounce in my step. I wonder if anyone would even think I don’t have an awesome life? I mean, I do. It’s just that when it’s less than awesome, I wonder if anyone can see past my facade. Ironically, sometimes I even cover up my own feelings/struggles by helping others with theirs and neglecting my own…yeah, I know. I promise that’s not what I’m doing while writing this post. PROMISE ūüôā

Sometimes in life, you just hope that someone will reach out and ask, “Are you OK?”

Just check in with you and take the fear away.

Well, they asked me if I’m OK so they must want the answer. Maybe it’s OK to tell them the truth. Maybe they don’t see my feelings as a burden after all.

It can feel like such a relief – like you’re able to breathe out again. It can be the start of a rewarding journey back to yourself (or the rest of the world) or it can resolve the horrible feeling of a problem eating away at you. Perhaps when the burden is shared, it lessens.

September 12 (that’s tomorrow) is R U OK Day. It’s something I really believe in and I am so glad it exists. Here’s the little blurb directly from the website:

What is the R U OK? Foundation?

The¬†R U OK? Foundation¬†is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life.

R U OK?Day¬†is our national day of action on the second Thursday of September¬†(12 September 2013), and¬†dedicated to reminding people to regularly check in with family and friends. We also have¬†Resources for You¬†to use throughout the year to help you ask ‘are you ok?’ regularly of family, friends and colleagues.

You can visit the website here¬†– you can find advice on how to ask someone if they’re OK as well as inspirational stories about people who dared to ask the question – and those who had the courage to answer them.

You just don’t know if you might be saving a life, by asking such a simple, compassionate question.

While R U OK Day might only be one day, it can inspire you to think about how to ask those you care about how they are throughout the year. I know that this campaign has given me the courage to ask the question many a time where in the past I might have chickened out. What if it’s none of my business? What if I’m intruding? What if I’ve imagined this person’s struggle in my head and I’m going to make a fool of myself? What if asking the question makes the other person run away from me? What if…I get a truly honest, heartbreaking answer and I don’t know what to do about it?

The R U OK Foundation says we just need to listen without judgement – we don’t need to fix everything or have all the answers. Starting the conversation in the first place can be very valuable.

I promise that the times I’ve had to dig deep to take the step of asking someone if they were OK, I have never regretted it. Just listen to your gut – if it’s telling you to ask because you truly care – and don’t ignore it. That person might have needed you to ask that very day. So, you get knocked back? That person still knows you care, even if they’re in too much pain (or even denial) to realise right away.

I have not been asked to promote R U OK Day (although would be very open to it in the future) and have nothing to gain by posting about it. It truly is something that I believe will make the world of difference to someone who is struggling. I’m sure we can all relate on some level as either the ‘asker’ or the ‘answerer’. While I have quoted the R U OK Day Foundation on this post (as clearly as possible), the opinions in it are mine only and I speak from personal experience.

I want my readers (regular or first time visitors) to know that I really do care about your well being.

So I’ll ask the question, which I mean from the bottom of my heart and truly care for the answer.

Are you OK? What’s happening for you right now? How are you feeling?

You can privately message me on Facebook, email me, DM me on Twitter or leave a comment on this post (you may use an anonymous username if you prefer – your email address is never published). Anything you tell me privately will not be shared and will not be judged. I just want you to know that I’m listening.

I hope that you will ask the question tomorrow too. It could be the start of a very important conversation.

x

I support you – no matter how you feed your baby.

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I found this post in my ‘drafts’ folder. I wrote it about a year ago. I think that I was scared to publish it because a) I didn’t want to just be another person going on and on about an issue that shouldn’t even be a favourite ‘mummy wars’ topic, and b) because I was scared that some of my readers might be put off by my stance on the issue. Yeah, I’m a people pleasing chicken sometimes…

I’ve decided to publish it today. A year late. I felt inspired by Mama By the Bay’s “I Support You” movement¬†(in which she works alongside Fearless Formula Feeder and I am not the babysitter). It’s about supporting mums, no matter how they feed their babies – as long as it’s done with love, who are we to judge? I still feel the same as I did a year ago and I’m cool with that.¬†

Written in August 2012…and published in August 2013.¬†

I am usually one to avoid controversial topics in my blogging. I want to entertain more than anything else. However, I am quite angry that the issue I’m going to talk about has to be controversial in the first damn place!

Of course. The age old argument: Breastfeeding vs. formula.

I just read a post on Mamamia by Bec Sparrow called, “Should baby formula be locked up in hospitals?”

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is implementing a so called initiative that involves the locking up of baby formula (literally) and only prescribing it for new babies if there is a medical reason. If a woman states her choice to use formula or requests a bottle, she has to have a lecture (no joke) on why lactation is better.

I am glad to not be in New York but this riles me up nonetheless. I am neither pro exclusive breastfeeding or pro exclusive formula. I am pro choice. I choose for women to have the right to choose. I think that our babies should be nourished and cared for in the best way they can be at the time. Also, there is no frickin’ rule about the two options being mutually exclusive!!!!! FFS!

Here’s my story:

I had a difficult pregnancy. I had PUPPP rash when I was 20 weeks pregnant onwards. I had to treat it aggressively with a steroid based ointment. Most women don’t get the rash until late in their pregnancy (around 36 weeks onwards) and can simply live with it or be induced once it’s considered safer for the mother and the baby. Let’s face it, I am a freak. I was itching, uncomfortable, visually a mess and dangerously close to depression (somehow the love for my baby and my support network really came through for me and I was lucky to get through it). I cried almost every day (not just the usual pregnancy crying but real, sad tears). I felt like a bad mother already, because as I tried to soak my body in a lukewarm bath (in the middle of winter), trying every home remedy possible and feeling so itchy it hurt, I had terrible thoughts. I thought, if my pregnancy would just go away…

Which you can imagine I didn’t really mean. I wanted my beautiful Little Mister more than anything in the world, but my state of mind was getting unhealthy and I just wanted the discomfort to stop. This wasn’t how I had dreamed of it. Being adopted, I had maybe idealised what pregnancy might be like because I wanted all my life to feel the blessing of fertility and a biological relative of my own. This was a tough blow.

At 30 weeks, I found out I had gestational diabetes. It was borderline so it was easy enough to control. I just had to drastically change my diet. Which is already restricted as you would guess when you’re pregnant. My one guilty pleasure and comfort – food and baking was thrown out. I was keeping a meticulous food diary and pricking my finger every single day (4 times a day). I felt like there was stigma whenever I told anyone I had it. It was genetic and not my fault. I had not done any different to any of my other pregnant friends who didn’t have it.¬† This was tough news upon the rash experience.

Fast forward to the 30-something weeks of my pregnancy and while my state of mind had improved, my rash came back and no steroid treatment would fix it. I felt better knowing I was closer to the end but it was a mystery. Turns out it wasn’t PUPPP again. It was probably an early symptom of an infection (and a dangerous one at that). I was subjected to daily blood tests for the whole last week of my pregnancy and was being monitored at the hospital every second day for longer than that. No-one knew what was wrong. I cried at the doc’s (not on purpose but it did work) and he gave me a date to be induced.

The Little Mister didn’t want to wait. He wanted to burst into this world on his own terms! Four days before I was going to be induced, I came down with a fever. I felt like I was just fighting a cold or something, but I didn’t know it would be much worse. I woke from a nap (I felt so lousy my body kind of gave out to it – the first “sleep” in ages) with contractions. Long story short, I rushed into hospital as my fever reached 38 degrees (celcius). Three hours later the Little Mister was born via emergency C-section. He didn’t breathe for the first 4 minutes. I was mentally oblivious and in shock. He was taken to another hospital where I didn’t see him for three days.

I was hooked up to the bed with a catheter for two days (the usual procedure for a C-section patient is one day). I had no baby and I would go from feeling like he didn’t exist (being all jovial like nothing had happened – probably my mind’s way of protecting me) to feeling very sad. My parents were amazing and I truly believe that they saved my mental health because they printed out pictures of the Little Mister from his first night in the hospital nursery (I wasn’t able to visit him) and I could look at him and bond with the idea of him. It made him real. My husband was torn between visiting our little man and keeping me company. He was always on the go and did an amazing job also.

By the time my little man came back to me in the hospital, he had been fed formula for three days. There was no choice. I just felt like as long as he was fed and nursed back to health, that’s all that mattered (he had my infection too). He was still on antibiotics just like me, but he was doing better than I was!! I was encouraged to express whenever possible for the milk to come in. Nothing really happened (despite my colostrum coming in very early in my pregnancy). I was stressed. People kept intruding when I tried to pump my breasts. There was no privacy and I couldn’t do it without hearing yet another well-meaning midwives’ opinion on it. I was feeling immense pressure as every nurse who started a new shift (I was in hospital 6 days) kept giving me a new lecture and new breastfeeding instructions. The Little Mister’s first night with us was hellish. He cried and cried every hour of the entire night. He was effectively being starved. I felt hopeless and had been somewhat brainwashed, thinking there was no option but to endure it. The anti biotics, the trauma and stress, they did nothing for my supply.

In the morning a midwife who I will love forever, told me this was bad. We’d been through so much already. We needed to be strong parents and stay mentally healthy at such a trying time. She taught us how to measure out formula top ups. I would try to breastfeed and then if nothing happened on the milk front, formula could top the Little Mister up for the time being. This worked wonders. We got small snatches of sleep and the pressure to breastfeed (which can hinder it ironically enough) was lifted somewhat. I realised I could just do my best and everything would still be OK.

When I left the hospital my supply hadn’t come in. I’d been separated from my baby, was still on anti biotics and I was very stressed (hospital is not that fun after 6 days). I was prescribed something to help and I was relieved when I got home into my own environment to find my supply coming in the day after. It wasn’t a great supply but it was better than nothing in my mind. I wanted to try. We had to continue with top ups through the night but in the day I was able to feed on demand (it felt like we were permanently attached). I felt so much better, but I still felt shame when people would either a) assume immediately that I must be breastfeeding exclusively because every GOOD mother does, right? or b) ask me what choice I had made, with their judgey face all ready to go.

I found myself stumbling over my answers. Trying to justify myself at every turn. I felt ashamed when I gave up at 3 months. My hormones had gone nuts and now as well as rashes all over my body (it was now scarring), I was getting acne. I was struggling with my supply and my body had been hijacked in a difficult way for way too long. I found myself feeling down and I couldn’t take another scar to my battered body. I had carried my beautiful baby into this world and fed him as well as I could. I had tried and tried to breastfeed and I had enjoyed the bonding it did give us while it lasted (without all my illness I truly believe that the Little Mister and my body – as it naturally would have been otherwise – would have been a feeding match made in heaven).

In the ideal world I would have had my baby with me from day 1 and I would have breastfed for at least 6 months (as recommended), but this isn’t always the ideal world and beating myself up over it wasn’t going to help anyone.

To shame mothers into exclusively breastfeeding is a disgusting act. To make laws and rules about it is just big brother style bullying. We all deserve a choice. I honestly believe to be able to be a happy and stable mother, I needed to be able to make my own decision after everything I’d been through. It was thought out, educated and with the best of intentions. To be treated like a dumb, uneducated young mother would have been terribly insulting, disempowering and bad for my mental health. As sad (and embarrassing – there’s a lot of pressure) as it was for me at the time, formula feeding probably saved me from depression. ¬†I also found that having to breastfeed and then warm bottles and feed the Little Mister a top up each time was a lot to deal with 3 times a night. To be able to cut down half the work in the wee hours was also a relief. This was not a decision to be lazy (!!!), it was a practical decision. Trust me. No hands on new mum is ‘lazy’.

I think that breastfeeding and lactation information is fantastic and every mother should be provided it in a supportive manner. Milk from the breast really is full of amazing properties that can only do our children a favour. I just also believe that women should not be pressured into it (rather than encouraged) and treated like imbeciles or sub-par parents when they bottle feed. I’m not even talking about the overtly aggressive anti formula people, but also about those passive aggressive looks, comments and “friendly advice” givers that pop up out of nowhere. Sometimes from strangers, medical professionals and even our own ‘friends’ and families – and that is bad enough!

I was adopted and I was formula fed for all of my babyhood. There was no choice. I grew up smart and healthy. I met all of my developmental milestones and I was rarely sick. Perhaps that skews my views on the issue, but I just believe that women need to have a choice, without fear of “mummy wars”. If formula feeding becomes the new social stigma, what does that mean for anyone who doesn’t have a choice? How will that affect the way they feel about themselves?

If I am blessed with a second child (not for a while yet – hold your horses), I will be doing both if required. I know my mind now and I believe I’m a good mother who will always do what is best for my child/ren in my circumstances at the time. To hell with what everyone else thinks.

 

Don’t bother having a birth ‘plan’.

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I honestly don’t know why they call them that. The fact is, you can’t PLAN your birth process. Even if you have a wonderful labour, you didn’t plan it. It was just a wonderful surprise to know that you were able to have a relatively good experience! To suggest that we can plan childbirth just seems like bollocks to me. Big sweaty ones. It says we’re in control of the process. I’m sorry, but while that thought is nice and sometimes keeps us sane, it just isn’t true.

My advice to first time pregnant mums is to throw out any notion that you are in charge and that everything will happen the way you want it to, because you’ve thought positively, avoided all negative horror stories and you’ve got a birth plan. Hasn’t anyone heard?? You have a birth plan! You did research! People who do research are better at this, right? Everything’s going to go just as you want it to! The truth is, positive thinking and making smart choices are never a bad thing – in fact, I recommend them. However, they don’t make a ‘good’ labour (ie the one you hope for) a sure thing. I feel like society keeps telling us we’re in control of everything. It feels like a comforting thought, but when despite all of your best efforts, something goes wrong…you feel like a failure. You’ve been fooled and pressured into thinking that you’re in charge of such a crazy biological process.

It’s actually liberating to realise you can’t be in charge of all of it. When my pregnancy started to get a little bit nuts, I blamed myself. I was ashamed that all these weird things were happening to me. I thought that those around me (the lucky ducks who have pregnancies that make them feel great) would think that I must be doing something wrong. That I must be thinking negatively, making some erroneous choice with my lifestyle or my diet etc. I knew it wasn’t my fault on an intellectual level (and was told so by more than one doctor/medical professional), but the fear of judgement was probably my biggest mistake of all! It’s just that we have all been brainwashed. It’s misguidedly comforting to tell ourselves that the other person over there with the pregnancy problems or the terrible labour must have done something wrong, because then we can just do it all ‘right’ and we’ll be fine. In a sick way, it reassures us.

In some ways, my crazy pregnancy was the greatest gift. It taught me that I’m not the one driving this bus (at times I looked like one haha). That you can do all of the ‘right’ things, think all of the most positive thoughts, and nature will still take its course. By the time I got closer to my due date, I threw all ideas of a birth ‘plan’ out of the window.

I had birth ‘preferences’. Birth ‘hopes’. Birth ‘wishes’.

I wrote a list of what I hoped for. I wrote a list of things I was willing to do to save myself or the baby (I kind of knew it wouldn’t be straight forward – intuition perhaps). I wrote a list of guidelines for my husband and my family – who I wanted there and when. It wasn’t fancy. It was pen scrawled all over an A4 piece of scrap paper, written off the top of my head. Maybe a list of only about 15 items. Some being very significant, like what I hoped would happen if something should happen to me (incapacitating me in some way), to the not so earth shattering, “Here’s my iPod, if my labour gets long just play it on shuffle – the songs on it keep me calm and inspire me.”

I was obviously hoping for a natural, vaginal birth, but I knew that drugs might help (I was quite unashamedly open to the idea) and that a C-section might be an emergency necessity. I knew from the start of the whole process that I would just be happy to have a healthy baby. I would not spend time mourning the death of a ‘plan’. I had already mourned the smooth, normal pregnancy I hoped I would have. I wasn’t going to do that to myself again.

My new attitude paid off. Because, as you may know, sh*t got crazy. I was in hospital for a mere 3 hours before I was in surgery. I only knew I was in labour about 2 hours before that. My labour was brought on by an infection. I got to 9cm dilated before they had to get me in for an emergency C-section. The epidural was administered in full dosage ahead of time (which made it a bit weird when I tried to push in a last ditch effort – can’t feel ANYTHING down there). I had no choice. I was then tethered (by catheter) to my hospital bed for two days (rather than the customary one day), while my firstborn spent the first 3 days of his life in another hospital without me because he was sick too.

If I had been all about a ‘plan’, I would have been exponentially more devastated and traumatised. Instead I was just shocked and dazed (perhaps it was the pethidine too) and later realised the enormity of what had happened to my baby and I. It took weeks to come to terms with what had happened. It was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me, my baby, or my body and of course it was going to take some getting used to! I am just glad that I didn’t also have the added sadness about things not going to ‘plan’ during the birth. I’d made my wishes known and they’d been respected, but I hadn’t outlined my preferred labour process without having an open mind. I knew anything could happen.

The important things happened. My parents were there to share in the experience (they stayed at the ‘right’ end of me haha) for the first time (I am adopted so it was hugely meaningful for the three of us as my mum has never experienced a pregnancy and I wanted to share this with her – I was so moved by my parents’ gratitude at being invited into such a special and private ‘event’). My husband got to the hospital quickly and was there for just about the whole time – by my side, encouraging me and saying all the right things (seriously!). I was kept safe, as was the Little Mister. No-one tweeted or Facebooked my labour process to the world in real time. I was given gas right when I needed it, surgery before things got horrible, and my baby was alive and likely to stay that way.

What didn’t I expect? What didn’t go to plan?

By complete chance, a top obstetrician just happened to be present when I came into the hospital. He was amazing and kept everyone calm in a tricky situation. Including me. I got optimum attention and care because while the time of my labour was unexpected (I was due to be induced almost a week later), I was the only person giving birth in the ward that night. The ONLY one! If I had been induced when I was expecting to be, the ward would have been FLOODED with people hoping to have their babies on the 11/11/2011 (as I found out later that week after a 6 day stay in the ward). Resources and manpower would have been stretched. The paediatrician who was present was also very good at her job (and to my mum’s delight – the wife of her favourite former professional AFL footballer)!

While not much went remotely as predicted, a lot of things went really right. I am so grateful. I am so glad I can see those blessings. Blessings I could never have planned for.

I’m calling on everyone to stop telling each other that we can plan our destinies. We can’t. We can’t be in control of everything. We can put our ducks in a row. We can be educated. We can make the best choices possible to encourage a great outcome. We can be positive and keep a great mindset. We can work hard. All of this might put us in the right places at the right times, but ultimately not all of it will always work out how we expected. Childbirth is no exception.

I love the way Mia Freedman of Mamamia puts it in her article about “Birthzillas”:

For many, it‚Äôs about control. One of the most confronting things about pregnancy and birth is the unpredictability of it and women often believe they can regain control by planning.¬†Babies, however, like to raise their middle finger at your plans.¬†They come early, they come late, they get stuck, they get suddenly distressed or tired or tangled…

After my personal experience, all I think we should care about is what’s best for the baby in that moment. I’m not going to compromise my child’s safety, by refusing treatment (or at least prolonging the inevitable) because I want to stick to a plan. Birth plans? Total first world problem/privilege. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly. My baby was in real trouble (as was I) if I did not have the first class care that I received. Who cares what that care involved as long as everything turned out for the best? A child who was/is alive (even if he didn’t breathe for four agonising minutes). Healthy after a little special attention.

Childbirth might not feel like the magical miracle everyone dreams of (at least it isn’t for everyone), but the result is what matters. It’s really important to go in knowing what is the most important.

If you got out of it healthy (if not worn out and needing some stitches somewhere) and you got to hold your healthy baby, take him/her back to your hospital room for cuddles and bonding for the first few days of his/her life… YOU ARE LUCKY. Your birth went well.

The birth of the Little Mister was shocking, surprising, a blur and hard to wrap my head around later, but I do not regret it at all. It went the way it needed to go. I wouldn’t and couldn’t change it. It brought me the most amazing gift and we all survived! I feel like a much stronger, more resilient person for it. I am proud of the fact that I was able to accept what happened (it took some time but had more to do with the trauma of being separated from my baby – as an adoptee since birth this was difficult to accept – my little man had to experience an immediate separation from me – something I’d dreamed he’d be spared of ever experiencing) and I feel like anything that brings you your gorgeous baby alive and well (even days later) is a success. I refuse to think of it as anything else.

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My advice to mums to be is to accept that life brings no guarantees. Know stuff. Do the stuff you can do. Then let the universe (and your beautiful baby you are so excited to meet) take its course. Some things are just bigger than us. Our self esteem and our pride should have nothing to do with something we can’t really control. We should not feel ashamed if something turns out differently to how we hoped. We did our best and life had other plans. That’s OK.

Sometimes life might put us on a path that will teach us the most, if we’re willing to learn.

Did your birth/s go to plan? Did you have a plan?

For some women, a traumatic birth or a birth that did not go to plan can be a trigger for post natal depression. If you are struggling, please click here for some resources. 

Falling off the wagon.

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So, remember that time when I was all like, “Look at me, guys! I’m getting all fit and losing weight and stuff!” ? I was exercising like a demon – daily! I was counting my calories and my husband was joining in. It was going great guns! Throw in the passing of my beloved grandfather, Easter, a trip interstate (where you’re eating socially a lot), an injury and a few other breaks to the usual routine…well, suddenly every day¬†becomes ‘cheat day’!

Basically, I am confessing to the fact that I have fallen off the good eating + exercise bandwagon. Hard.

I still weigh just under 3kg less than I did when I started getting fit and healthy earlier this year, but I am slowly gaining weight back. I am not exercising regularly and I have become addicted to salty, starchy and fatty foods again. Don’t even get me started on the weirdest cake cravings I had for weeks on end (which I thankfully did not often indulge).

I still have at least 5 kg to lose. At least. I need to get back into action. While I am constantly on the go, with a very active 18 month old, this is not enough if I don’t eat right or exercise more mindfully.

I need to remember how good I felt when I was living healthier. It was awesome seeing the weight drop off bit by bit. While I wasn’t aiming for fast weight loss (in fact it was very slow), it was great to know that I was keeping on top of it and that my lifestyle did not have to change much. I was just making good choices. On the occasions (about once a week) that I had a cheat day I realised that I didn’t need so much in my stomach (it seemed to have shrunk back to its normal size) and if I ate something terrible, my metabolism didn’t care so much. I’d be back on track really fast. I felt like I was living the life of a skinny person. I could eat and not gain weight after seemingly every meal. My body had a new, healthy default setting to return to. As long as I did the right thing more than I did the less right thing, my body didn’t let me down! I felt happier from all the endorphins, I had more energy and I slept well at night (it killed my insomnia).

I need to get back there. My emotions have been all over the place. I have felt less confident in some of my clothes. I am scared of returning to my scary weight. I am also very acutely aware that if I should choose to have another child in the next few years, I would like to put myself in a position where my body has somewhere good to return to!!

So I am going to take baby steps back to where I was. In hindsight, I probably was going a bit hard with the exercise in particular (I was behaving like a contender for the Biggest Loser – ). A few life hiccups and I was spectacularly derailed. Perhaps I need to ease back in, rather than go so hard that I peak early. I’ll start with my nutrition and some low impact exercise and build myself back up to where I left off.

I can totally do this.

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How do you motivate yourself to exercise and eat right?

This post is a part of the Blog Every Day in May challenge.



Some honest reflection one week out of hospital.

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Look, I am going to toot my own horn here (or whatever that expression is). I am going to risk sounding full of myself but I am damn proud of how I’ve handled my crazy pregnancy and labour experiences. I’ve learnt so much about what I am capable of both mentally and physically, which sounds funny because a lot of things didn’t go right. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t moments I felt like my body had let me or the Little Mister down, but there were a lot of things my body did right.

They say you should talk about your birth experience – especially if things went a little haywire – as it can ward off post natal depression and keep you positive and supported. I totally believe this now and it’s why I’ve been so brutally honest about everything I’ve experienced. Sharing my story and talking to my husband and my family about it without being afraid of a few tears has really helped.

I feel a bit bad like maybe I’ll scare some people who hope to have children some day, but look. I’m here and I have a beautiful, healthy baby to prove that despite the challenges everything can turn out well in the end. I think I did teeter dangerously close to depression at some low points of my pregnancy. I was tired of everything that got thrown at me from rashes to diabetes to the mysterious infectious end to the whole ordeal (which luckily resulted in a healthy mum and bub after a bit of TLC). I thought that if there was something that could go wrong, it would happen to me. Oh, that condition only affects 1% of pregnant people? For sure, I’ll get it! I admit to thinking negatively and worrying a lot. I didn’t think of myself as a strong person at all. I felt inadequate and helpless. Sometimes I felt like I was alone (which I know I wasn’t but when you’re down you think you’re the only one).

Everyone said to me that when Little Mister arrived, I would forget all of those troubles and everything I’ve been through would fade away. I didn’t believe them. I was trying to be realistic about it all. I knew that in my position I might not feel amazing right away and I refused to pressure myself to feel that new baby euphoria immediately. If it happened (which I prayed it did) then I would be so relieved and if it didn’t, I would be mentally prepared, know the signs and ask for help.

I can’t believe my luck. Everything really does seem worth it with my little guy around. I love him so much. In fact, maybe I love him and appreciate him even harder after all we’ve been through together. Sometimes I do get sad flashbacks to my labour experience or the trauma that certain events brought me in the lead up to his birth. I acknowledge and honour those feelings. I talk them out and I give them a little time (and a couple of tears) before moving forward. I have so many new things to learn and love.

I am recovering from an emergency C-section and it can be frustrating. I don’t know where I would be without the help of my husband and the support of family. It really is physically limiting and I try not to let it affect the way I bond with our bub, but there are admittedly times I can’t jump up out of bed (on account of being too sore) and lift him up into my arms when he cries. I need a lot of help and sometimes I just cannot do everything I want to. I try to make up for it wherever I can and I am not pressuring myself to do too much or to be a super mummy right away.

Something that affects me a little is the fact that my baby was taken away to another hospital for special care hours after birth. He was gone about three days and I only got to see him when he was placed on my chest right after the C-section. This is hard for any new mum, but I think that being an adoptee, I found it particularly tough when on day 3 the baby blues kicked in (only I had no baby with me yet). I realised that my biological mother had been through a similar (albeit permanent) trauma. I had now felt what it was like to go through a lot to have a baby and then have nothing to show for it. I felt so blessed that it was just a temporary situation (a few days really is going to seem like a flash in the pan as we clock up the quality time with our gorgeous bub), but it made me very sad. I was so jealous of my husband because he was able to visit Little Mister (but also so grateful he wouldn’t be alone). I felt empty and shellshocked and it still brings tears to my eyes sometimes when I talk about it. I had looked forward to seeing my beautiful baby for so long – he was the reward for all my hard work – and now he wasn’t there. I was hooked up to drips and stuck on an uncomfortable hospital bed, feeling as if I was still pregnant because I had nothing to prove otherwise (a swollen post-surgery paunch didn’t help the matter). Each day I feel a little better about how everything’s turned out, but I doubt I’ll ever forget those feelings.

I now respect those who go through harder situations than me so much more than ever before. My small taste of separation from my baby was more than enough for me to go through. My heart goes out to those who aren’t as fortunate as myself and my husband. My husband said that it was humbling visiting the neo-natal ward at the children’s hospital. Our baby looked so big and healthy compared to the tiny, struggling premature babies who were in the humidicribs. The parents of those other babies would look on in shock at how much our baby was thriving compared to their tiny, delicate infants. They must have wondered what he was doing there. Our Little Mister might have had an infection and needed oxygen and intravenous antibiotics but he was big and strong. I love him so much and he already makes me proud.

I see so many positives out of this situation. I have a healthy fighter of a baby. I now know what I’m made of. Even when trying for a natural labour I kept my composure and I did what was best for me and the baby (never letting myself get too distressed). I now know I can handle pain I’ve never experienced previously in my whole life and now I feel like I could get through anything. My rash has disappeared and I can eat what I like again. I am healthier because my diabetes taught me better dietary habits and I can look at the warm, inviting spring sunshine and not be afraid that it will make my skin unbearable to be in. The small pleasures in life are certainly not taken for granted anymore.

Itchy stretch marks on my belly and pock marked legs? Who bloody cares! Look what good things my body did! It knew to get the baby out before it was too late. It responded to the drugs I was given and it is healing fabulously considering what it’s been through. My faith in my body is returning, which is actually a really big deal for me.

I have so many good things to look forward to in life and I’m on the craziest learning curve ever. Love really does conquer all if we let it.

If I have any advice (unsolicited again – sorry) for other new mums, it would be to not expect yourself to feel 100% awesome and competent and crazy with baby love 100% of the time. It’s OK if sometimes you need a little cry or if something isn’t quite working perfectly. Just get some support if you need it and you’ll be able to move forwards onto all the good things in life. The baby blues are real and that’s OK.

In saying that, sometimes it’s more than just baby blues and you shouldn’t have to suffer alone and ashamed – here is a link if you’re struggling xo

The birth story: Better out than in!

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Now here’s a story about being Awesomely Unprepared…

So I was going a little crazy in late pregnancy. I was suffering from my various pregnancy ailments and after being strong during ridiculous amounts of blood tests and doctor/hospital appointments, I finally cried in front of my baby GP and this got me a date to be induced for labour (I wasn’t intending to use my feminine wiles to manipulate a good outcome but I was glad the waterworks were effective). I was to enter the maternity ward with my bags packed, feeling calm and prepared on Thursday the 10th of November. I was excited and relieved. I had been anxious that my baby boy was getting bigger and bigger. My rash was unbearable and untreatable. My diabetes was just playing havoc with me. I’d lost my appetite and I felt like I wasn’t getting the energy I needed from my heavily restricted diet. I was psychologically breaking and it was hard explaining my “big picture” story to every health professional I saw, who questioned why I was taking certain precautions etc when I wasn’t even considered full term yet (and there were many from midwives to pathology nurses to doctors and a dermatologist).

I had always planned on being a calm mother to be while in labour. I didn’t want to be in hysterics or do anything to distress the baby.

On Saturday the 5th November, I felt good. I went out for brunch with my family and I didn’t have any appointments lined up until the following Monday! Yes! Weekend off! I was also relieved at having an induction date, which relaxed me immensely.

As soon as I got home I went to have a long awaited nap on my couch while watching trashy TV, but I felt a bit off. Like when you first start to get a cold. I felt flushed in the face and it wasn’t relaxing at all. I figured I was just fighting something simple off. I told myself I would wake up the next day feeling good again.

This wasn’t the case. In fact, when I woke on Sunday the 6th of November, I felt worse. I called my parents and my dad came over and took my temperature and checked my blood pressure (gotta love having a health professional in the family). I had a mild temperature and the maternity nurse said not to worry unless it got a bit worse.

Later that afternoon…it got worse. I woke from a nap with some mild cramps and thought it was Braxton Hicks (fake practice contractions). I instinctively took my temperature and realised it was not good. I didn’t want to be a wuss (it didn’t feel like labour surely…which defies logic as I’d never experienced labour before) so I called my parents and asked them if I should get Husband Pants to leave work. I called the hospital and they said that if I couldn’t talk through my contractions anymore (or the pain got too scary) then I should go in. I was still not convinced I was in labour but eventually I was in agony! This sh*t was real – or it had better be because if it wasn’t, I didn’t want to go through that again on Thursday!!

My parents came over as soon as they could. It felt like they took forever and I was rocking about (standing up) like they teach you in ante-natal classes and was surprised that I wasn’t screaming. I had had a shower and it helped the tiniest bit, but I felt like there wasn’t even any gap between contractions anymore! My husband was notified and he sounded like he was in shock! He arranged to leave work an hour early and meet me at the maternity ward!

I got to hospital at 6:30pm (felt stupid being wheelchaired in by my dad but realised I could not have walked that long corridor by myself) and they monitored me for a bit. A doctor popped in just at the right moment (just happened to be a stupidly well regarded obstetrician who I am so grateful for) and told me I was 5cm already! I had been quietly going into labour and was already halfway! I never knew I was so stoic!!

I was moved quickly from the observation room into a birthing suite and the action continued. The midwife offered me gas at just the right moment (I thought I was tough but there was a point it all got hazy) and my husband was so good holding my hand and showing me he was proud of the way I was breathing well and taking it in my stride. All the ideas I had about my first labour being long and laborious (no pun intended) and perhaps even boring went right out the window. I didn’t have to worry about wanting music played on my ipod or eating light snacks to make it through. No-one had time to abuse any social networking opportunities (ie facebooking or tweeting anything inappropriate) and I didn’t even have a chance to try out various birthing positions or techniques!! I didn’t even have time to break any of my hubby’s fingers or ask him how guilty he felt (damn I had really wanted to use that line)!

The doctor kept telling me my labour could get dangerous for the baby and I on account of my fever. I understood what he was saying but his bedside manner was so good that I stayed calm despite the dangers and just kept doing what I was advised. I ended up having an epidural. The choice was taken out of my hands (which was a relief to be honest – that’s a lot of big decision making). I had to be prepped for surgery in case I would need it. I had no idea the magnitude of the situation. I was told to push really hard but I couldn’t feel much and I suppose that was disappointing because I was going to be wheeled off to theatre where they would attempt to get the baby out superfast with forceps (eek). I got to 9cm dilated but it became obvious very quickly that a birth by forceps (instrumental birth I think he said) wasn’t going to be good enough. Things were getting dangerous. So C-section it was.

Only three measly hours after I arrived at hospital, our Little Mister was delivered at 9:28pm. He weighed roughly 8 lb, 1 oz and was 50cm long. He was lifted above the curtainy-shield thingy and shown to us but he wasn’t moving or crying. I think they told me he was moving to make me feel OK but I was so tired and overwhelmed and drugged that I didn’t really have a chance to worry or feel traumatised. Luckily a couple of minutes later I heard him make some sound and my husband looked at me with a comforting smile and said, “Do you hear that?”

We had about five minutes of snuggle time (he was already cleaned and wrapped) and then he was gone again. I was told that I had an infection in my amniotic fluid and he had breathed it in and could get pneumonia or something equally nasty for a newborn.

I was in a daze and taken to recovery. I had been told he needed some special attention but to be honest I really didn’t understand just what a delicate situation he and I were in. We were both sick.

I was just relieved that I had delivered my baby. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t really see him for another three days, after he was sent to the paediatric hospital an hour’s drive away for special care and monitoring in their neo-natal ward (my amazing husband would have to divide his time between staying with me and visiting Little Mister so he wasn’t alone).

When I was back in my hospital room, I felt good. I was on pethidine and fluids (I had come to the hospital very dehydrated despite sipping on water all day every day for weeks leading up to the birth) and thought I was doing amazingly. My parents came into the room and my mother in law visited me too even though it was now the middle of the night. I feel a little sad for myself when I think back to that time. I was so out of it that I didn’t realise I had no baby by my side. My arm was full of drips and I didn’t know I was so sick and needing a hell of a lot of intravenous anti biotics and an extra day tethered to the hospital bed (most C-section patients are only kept in bed for one day).

I was happy (even if in a drug induced haze). I’d seen my baby briefly and he was alive. It was all I needed to know at that moment. Almost nothing had gone to any kind of original plan but I knew that the baby and I were in good hands (in fact – the best – I cannot even express how grateful I am). I am relieved that I went into all of this open minded, not trying to control everything. Perhaps my challenging pregnancy had made me mentally strong enough for what was to come.

Stay tuned for the next post about the aftermath of my crazy birth experience...

Getting reflective before giving out some unsolicited advice.

As I reach the pointy (stretchy, bumpy, achey) end of my first pregnancy, I am feeling a little bit reflective. It has been one big journey both physically and mentally. When talking to friends who are in the earlier stages of gestation, I realise that I have come a long way. It feels like only yesterday I too was overwhelmed and felt entirely clueless about the whole situation and now I am doling out advice (hopefully the useful and welcome kind) and trying to reassure others about the process – not that I’m some big ol’ expert know it all or anything. I guess I’ve just learnt a lot along the way.

Now, during and after childbirth? That’s a whole other matter!! Stay tuned!!!

Here are some reflections on some of the feelings and symptoms I’ve experienced so far.

Pre-conception

I was trying to play it cool. My pill prescription was due for a refill and I was going to head to the pharmacy for it when my husband said, “Are you sure you need to do that? That’s a whole four months more of the pill. Maybe we could start trying for a baby. It might take a while for your body to adjust so why not just leave it?”

Eek! I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation! I mean, we had always talked about it in an abstract kind of way and we knew we both dreamed of a family of our own, but this was REAL! Holy crap! I looked at him with wide eyes, he looked back at me and I felt a dangerous thrill.

I bought a couple of books online (OK so about four) for us to read. A couple for dads-to-be and a couple about pregnancy itself. I started having an excited browse of them, but soon realised I didn’t want to read far ahead because it was too overwhelming and I needed to stay cool. Conception might take a while and I didn’t want to pressure myself or become crazy about baby making. I wanted to be relaxed and peaceful about the process, not impatient or anxious.

I had occasions where I would have a “moment” and would need reassurance from my husband. I knew people (including my own parents) who had struggled with different fertility and pregnancy issues and while I tried to tell myself that it’s more common than people realise and that I was just being realistic, I realised just how important the dream of falling pregnant really was to me. Being adopted made me feel like I needed someone who comes from me. From my biological family tree. That is hard to admit because so much of my life is about knowing that love is thicker than water, not blood or genetics.

I stopped reading the books completely and the hubby and I booked a Contiki tour of Europe (something to look forward to if things weren’t happening on the baby front), which took the pressure off. Turns out we never went on that tour! ūüėČ

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First Trimester

I was nervous from the moment we found out we were expecting. The first trimester is when you’re at the highest risk of miscarriage and I was scared that I would have one. Reading statistics about 1 in 5 pregnancies failing doesn’t help! I almost expected that my first pregnancy would fail just because it was my first pregnancy (don’t ask me how that logic works). I just hoped that a second attempt would be successful (luckily this was not to be an issue).

I felt tired and overwhelmed. Suddenly I had a tiny being (or bean) on board. I’d heard the heartbeat early on (about 7 weeks in) and seen a scan of something that looked like a jelly bean attached to another jelly bean (the embryo and its little sac), but it still didn’t feel entirely real. I was excited but I didn’t want to let myself get carried away. I had a few weeks before I would feel safe to tell the world.

I was googling everything I felt. I was reading about all the foods I suddenly had to avoid (if you followed every tiny bit of written advice there is out there you wouldn’t be able to eat anything). I lost my appetite and I was losing a bit of (admittedly excess) weight. I felt so…dumb!

I started reading Up the Duff and What to Expect When You’re Expecting but nothing really sank in. I wasn’t quite ready for it all. Later these books would become my bibles (I highly recommend you keep them for when you’re ready to take their advice).

We told immediate family almost straight away. We figured we’d have support from them if things went wrong but everyone was sworn to secrecy. Their lives would not be worth living if they told even a soul!!!

We had a scare at 12 weeks (right before our ultrasound was due), with a bleed in the middle of the night. I had been stressed and that moment was confusing and scary. It was a long night for us as we waited to have an appointment with our doctor the next morning (it seemed a better option than sitting in ED with the drunk casualties at the hospital on a weekend night). We got our scan booking moved a few days early as we were quite anxious. We were so relieved when there was our little foetus looking more baby shaped, the technician telling us there was no bad reason for my bleeding (perhaps it was the placenta implanting nice and strong in my uterine wall) and that everything was looking great. There appeared to be no abnormalities and there was no likeliness of Down Syndrome too. We were in shock, but this time it was the happy kind. It was a wake up call for me to avoid lots of stress and for my husband to help out with that rather than hyping me up when I felt a bit overwhelmed. It was a big adjustment for the both of us.

I told a couple of very close friends earlier in the piece but it was hard. I never knew how to announce it! It felt embarrassing and weird! Eventually my mum told me it was getting a bit crazy (I started showing at 10 weeks) and that I really just needed to be brave and share the news. I realised she was right. Bottling it up and keeping things secret has never been my style and I just wanted to feel real and honest with those I care about.

It felt like such a relief and I felt ready to embrace the experience.

Second Trimester

This was a wonderful time. I could finally show off my bump and I was starting to gain confidence in what I could eat. My appetite and energy levels came back with a vengeance and although I stupidly started comparing myself to other pregnant people (bad idea) I was feeling excited and happy. I started running around like a madwoman – my version of nesting. I was making the most of my energy boost and I was really enjoying everything I felt in my body. Even the not always awesome symptoms – they meant I was pregnant and that was enough for me!

I was baking up a storm almost daily in the kitchen. I was organising things for people and getting my creative juices flowing. I had started this blog you’re reading right now and I was finally able to read my pregnancy books without freaking out. I made a rule that I would just take it all a week at a time. I would only read about the week of pregnancy I was in and would not dare to flick forwards to those scary parts about labour or breastfeeding! This strategy has been a fantastic one.

Our 20 week ultrasound was very exciting. We paid an extra $15 for a DVD and we delighted in showing our families. We were on top of the world. We now knew we were having a boy! Everyone expected a girl (including me) but it was yet another boy to add to ALL the males on both sides of our families. I was admittedly a teeny tiny bit disappointed but knowing the baby was healthy and he was all ours overshadowed that feeling. I guess the rebel in me had wanted to even up the scoreboard with a bit more oestrogen. Never mind! Maybe next time!

Right after the scan I developed a PUPPP rash. They believe about 1% of women will get this hormonal pregnancy rash. It was unbearable and it started in all the uncomfortable, undignified places you can think of. It itched and it made me crazy. It took 2 weeks to get a diagnosis and I felt so helpless and depressed (I don’t use that term lightly). Until I got a great treatment for it from a dermatologist, I had nothing that worked besides lukewarm baths. Let me tell you, living in the bath sounds like a great idea, but it really gets bad when you can’t cope without it. It would soothe my skin for maybe a couple of hours before I was scratching, crying and having the darkest, most saddest thoughts about my pregnancy (and then feeling more awful that my mind could go there). I wouldn’t wish that time on anyone.

My skin started to scar badly and I felt unattractive, no longer the glowing pregnant lady. I had no clothes to wear (it was winter and leggings or cheap fabrics were out of the question) and I was a shut in for weeks as I was constantly soaked in greasy steroid ointment or had no clothes to wear. Luckily my mum saved the day with a whole bunch of beautiful maxi dresses. Phew. I could leave the house again! Albeit wearing scarves and god knows what else in an attempt to hide my scars.

The itching died down with the ointment and I only needed to use it occasionally. I started living my life again and I felt quite good, although the fear of a flare up was always in the back of my mind.

This is a time where I’d like to point out that I realised there is no perfect pregnancy. I couldn’t control everything and I had to accept that this was my experience. It was OK to have some bad thoughts or experiences. It didn’t make me a bad person or a failure of a pregnant woman. I did feel misunderstood because not many people knew what the condition was, but eventually I was able to re-embrace my pregnancy and focus on the positives with a lot of love and support from family and my husband (who was AMAZING during this time). By being open about my condition, I felt liberated and I hope I educated people on what the condition is about. Even the fact that pregnancies are not always perfect and that’s just the way life is. I became determined to not feel ashamed. The rash was/is not my fault.

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Third Trimester

Sh*t gets real in this trimester. It’s like my focus went from “being pregnant” to “going to have an actual real live baby”. I finally felt ready to buy baby things and think about the end result of my pregnancy! It had been too overwhelming before but now I started to realise what all of this truly means (well I knew a baby is going to be born but there’s a difference between knowing it and feeling it).

I wasn’t just thinking or reading about pregnancy symptoms. I was finally ready to hear advice about actual babies and labour and all the rest of it!

The nursery slowly filled up with furniture and clothing and goodness knows what other supplies! A pram was purchased (something that had scared the bejeezus out of me a trimester or two earlier – who the hell knows what a baby needs?!) and a cot was assembled! I finally had a handle on what all these baby products are, what features I wanted and what the teeny tiny clothing sizes mean!

I had my glucose tolerance test at 28 weeks. What a downer that was! I had a gut feeling all along that I would test positive for gestational diabetes, despite everyone being optimistic.
“What are the odds? You’ve already been through hell with the rash. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

They meant well, but I just KNEW.

I got a bit grumpy having to see a dietician and test my blood four times a day. I felt horrible knowing that the condition was genetic (although relieved it wasn’t caused by my behaviour) because now I’ll be one of those people who have to watch out for Type 2 Diabetes for the rest of my damn life. That’s a lot to take in!!! Before this pregnancy I have always been healthy and taken for granted my smooth, tanned skin. Damn, reality can bite!

I felt hard done by. My diet would now be even more limited. I was having a pity party. 1% get the rash. 3-5% get Gestational Diabetes. I lost hope in all statistics. I no longer believe that if there is an extremely low risk of something happening that it means I’ll be right, mate. My body has proved that I can quite easily be in that minority.

I adjusted my diet over a week or so and finally feel confident in what I can eat or not eat. The hardest thing has been people in my life not understanding the limitations on my diet. Eating out can be difficult and people think that as long as I don’t eat cookies, cake or lollies then I’m fine. There is much more to it than that. I have to watch my carbs, the hidden sugars in almost everything we buy off supermarket shelves, even the natural sugars in fruit. All the condiments, sauces, salt content, proportioning of a meal, the timing of when I eat etc can have an effect on my blood sugar and at times I felt like I was repeating myself over and over and over. I don’t expect people to cater for me (I eat at home first or just watch them eat cake) but it did get frustrating trying to explain. I know everyone means well and I truly don’t blame them for not having the information (after all it’s not their problem). I think I just reached a level of annoyance about having the condition in the first place. Everything was getting to me. I withdrew socially for a few weeks so I could regroup and toughen up a bit. Perhaps, had I not had the rash, I might have handled it better psychologically.

This trimester we went to ante-natal class. I felt so much more relaxed afterwards. I now know more about the process at the hospital and about birth itself. How it all works, what the midwives are likely to do and different birthing positions and stories about natural births and C-sections. Taking some of the unknown out of the whole labour experience proved oddly reassuring, even though I’m sure to be in a whole world of pain and unexpected events when the time comes! The class made me realise I’m so ready for this baby.

One thing that really cheered me up socially was my baby shower! It was the first time I would see my friends in maybe a month. I was nervous about entertaining so many people at my house (I was getting to the really tired phase of pregnancy) but it was fantastic. There was SO much love in my house that day and I was on a high for days afterwards. The gifts were all gorgeous and useful. People were raving about the dessert buffet by Finn + Evie (which was planned before I found out I had diabetes) for days and I felt so spoilt. I felt overwhelmed by love and all warm and fuzzy that our baby is going to know this love soon!

Now I’m in the 36th week of pregnancy and my rash is trying to come back with a vengeance. It really loves my legs and my newly acquired stretch marks (please don’t give me advice on my skin unless you’ve had the condition – I know you mean really well and I love you for it but I can’t just whack on some bio oil or paw paw ointment yet – it’s going to be a long process and my skin is very sensitive at the moment – it’s not always that straight forward). This is difficult as I am already finding it hard to sleep. I thank my lucky stars I have my ointment this time. The weather isn’t helping at 94% humidity!!

I still have to pack my hospital bag (and one for the baby and one for the husband) but I feel ready. Once I know our little one is fully cooked, I can’t wait to get him out of me and into my arms! I want to meet him and love him and nurture him and show him off, but admittedly I am also SO over being pregnant! I want to eat what I like, wear high heels (or even nice wedges will do) and stop itching!

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My Two Cents Worth

I’ve had a big reality check with my first pregnancy. Life isn’t always smooth sailing and pregnancy is no different! I don’t want to scare any newly pregnant people with my tales of woe! It really is a lovely experience despite everything else. I just don’t believe in sugar coating it or making others feel inadequate by not being honest about my feelings and experiences. One thing that hasn’t changed through this whole process is my love for our baby. Love really can conquer all. I would tell anyone who is newly expecting that if you go with the flow and know it’s OK to not be in control, you’ll be able to get through anything. You might have dark thoughts, scary moments or feel particularly frumpy or spotty or clueless, but I promise you that you’re not alone. It’s a scary time as much as it is exciting. You just never know what will get thrown at you along the way! Just don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect or your thoughts aren’t all unicorns and rainbows. Everyone’s experiences are different. That woman you feel daunted by because she’s one of those seemingly perfect pregnant ladies might be hiding a multitude of conditions. She may have suffered miscarriages previously, she may be dressing so nicely to hide scars from a rash, she may not be able to eat what she likes (that might be why she seems so perfectly slim everywhere but the bump). She might just be paralysed by anxiety when she goes home at night. She might be able to keep up her paid day job forever while you feel like you can’t cope, but she may be throwing herself into work to avoid the inevitable list of baby related preparations that are seriously freaking her out.

You just don’t know, so don’t compare yourself. You’re good enough and you’ll be amazing even if there are some (big or small) bumps in the road.

I truly believe that if we’re all honest and we don’t buy into the bullsh*t that pregnancy is all glowy and blissful 100% of the time for everyone, if we take the time to listen to someone who is feeling confused or scared (or itchy!), then perhaps it won’t be so difficult and some of us might not feel so alone. Unconditional love and support has been what has got me through darker days/nights. We need to let people know they don’t have to be perfect just because it makes us feel better.

And, hey. If you have a terrifically blissful 9 months – good for you! I cannot express enough how much I am happy for you! You’re so lucky and so is your baby ūüôā

Wish me luck for the next few weeks, lovely readers – we’re approaching crunch time!!

Gestational Diabetes. I has it.

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Pregnancy is a little freaky (well, it is). Especially the first one, I’m guessing. It’s all the unknown. It’s not like you’ve ever done it before. You have no idea what to expect. Well, other than the basic stuff – maybe getting morning sickness, eventually forgetting what your feet look like and having a baby at some point. Oh and the waddle. It will get ya.

You can read lots of books and you can do all that is within your control to prepare for every possible symptom or outcome, but at the end of the day you can’t help but feel awesomely unprepared for it all. Each person is different and each pregnancy is different!

I am adopted and this makes life more interesting. I am learning stuff about me (and evidently those before me) for the first time during this experience! Now I finally know my blood type. And soon I will know what my biological relatives will look like (oh please let them be pretty)! Oh, and there’s the small matter of discovering the hard way that my genes carry a history of gestational diabetes.

Yes, gestational diabetes. I has it.

Despite the (usually misinformed) stigma attached to all forms of diabetes, there is nothing I did wrong or nothing I did to cause it (the dietician said this about five million times so I believe her). I just have to manage it as best I can and hope it goes away when the baby is born. I am not obese and although my rash (yeah that other thing I’ve had to deal with) got in the way of more regular exercise for a while, I am not living an entirely sedentary life! Have I fallen victim to a sweet tooth during this pregnancy? You betcha. But apparently that’s not the cause. It just exacerbates an already existing condition.

I now have to prick my finger four times a day (to test my blood sugar levels), keep an entirely honest food diary (EEK!) and attend class/meeting thingys on healthy eating and gestational diabetes weekly…for the rest of my pregnancy (and maybe even beyond because now *sarcastic hip hip hooray* I’m more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes later in life!

Not to mention the fact that I have to give up any cake, biscuits, icecream, chocolate and all the little treats that can sometimes make pregnancy seem so much sweeter (literally)! I’m a bit bummed that my family history is no longer a clean slate. I can no longer pretend I am 100% healthily awesome – the pioneer of a new superhuman legacy. Turns out, some bugger of an ancestor started this and I can’t even tell them off because I do not know who the hell they are. DAMN YOU, ANCESTOR!!!

At the end of the day, knowledge is power and I will do everything I can to make sure the baby and I stay safe and sound. I will shake off the fear of¬† judgement surrounding pregnant people and their habits (it’s amazing how much people watch you like a hawk if you let them) and stick to what the professionals tell me. I will make the most of being healthier (can’t be a bad thing right?) and I will just have to put on my big girl pants and get on with it.

So, here’s to a new challenge along the pregnancy journey. I am awesomely unprepared (understatement of the decade) but I am gonna face this and I’m gonna make it my bitch.

That’s the spirit, ‘eh?

What genetic quirks/conditions run in your family? Or are you adopted like me?

 

For more information on gestational diabetes, you can click here.

Sh*t Happens.

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Wow, things can really change in a week! Not long after I posted about becoming a sudden domestic goddess in the making, my nesting habits got a bit interrupted…

Sometimes there are things in life that you just can’t control. Things that you are Awesomely Unprepared for, despite your best intentions.

I am learning that I may be a little bit more of a control freak than I really like to admit. Me? A control freak? You must be talking about someone else

I hold myself to high standards, even though I know I shouldn’t. I compare myself to others, even though I know I shouldn’t. I blame myself for things that aren’t my fault when I know I shouldn’t. I expect that everything I do will turn out how I’ve predicted when really nothing ever goes perfectly to plan. It’s so much fun such a drag.

I guess I’m just human.

Now if there’s anything in life you can’t control, it’s pregnancy. Symptoms keep popping up and they have very little to do with you. Sure, you can stop doing hard drugs or chugging alcohol. You can try to stay fit and healthy and adjust your nutritional intake so it benefits the baby the best. But you aren’t going to be perfect at it (well I hope you stop taking hard drugs and drinking whiskey at the very least) and there are so many other things going on in your body that you really have no say in/control over! There’s something strangely liberating and exciting about that, but it can also be a little unsettling for a control freak.

We can’t stop stretch marks if we’re destined to have them. We can’t help if some pregnancy related medical condition pops up out of nowhere and needs dealing with. We can’t control the way our bump sits or how big it will get. We can’t help it if our skin doesn’t look like it’s glowing (even if everyone else’s seems to be) or if morning sickness decides to strike. We can only do the best we can to minimise any risks and leave the rest up to nature.

This “Aha” moment (thanks, Oprah – miss you already) came to me when I started breaking out in rashes all over my body lately. Itchy, unsightly and unbearably uncomfortable. I have never had a history of allergies, eczema or any other skin condition in my life. I have been using very natural (and pregnancy safe) products on my skin (and around the house) since I got pregnant and I have not changed my diet (other than a few stray cupcakes finding their way into my stomach – hey how did they get in there??) or anything else about my lifestyle. Yet, here I’ve been with these damn rashes and sleepless, itchy nights. At times I’ve felt like a leper. I keep hearing about/noticing how my pregnant friends (past and present) had/have perfect skin and look so great. I keep seeing those paparazzi pics of damn celebrities with their damn yoga mats looking radiant while up the duff. In my weak moments (aplenty) I’ve felt like a spotty, unattractive failure (even though my amazing husband – who values his life – keeps reminding me that he still finds me so beautiful).

I didn’t want to tell anyone about what I was feeling so I hid it inside for a little while. When people asked how I was feeling, I would say, “Oh awesome – so great – no sickness – tons of energy”. Sure, that answer was kind of true, but on the inside I’ve feeling down about my skin and worried about it. Stupid but true story.

It got to a point where it got too intense. I was sobbing in a cold shower (despite it being the coldest winter ever) in the middle of the night and scratching when I knew I shouldn’t. I told my family and I made the first doctor’s appointment of many. Finally, my discomfort overruled my shame/embarrassment.

I’ve got the ball rolling on some attempts at controlling my skin problems and while I haven’t got a solution (or even a way to keep things manageable) yet, I should have done this ages ago. I also realise I am not afraid to speak up about it anymore. So what if I have this ugly rash? I have a healthy baby boy inside me and everyone is different. It’s not my fault. I can’t control everything. It’s not even contagious. Therefore there is nothing I could have done differently other than not get pregnant (which I wouldn’t trade for the world). I AM NOT TO BLAME. I AM NOT A BAD PREGNANT PERSON. OK, so I won’t be having any glamour belly shots for the family album. I probably will cover up reaaallly well if I give AquaBump Aerobics a try (so as not to scare anyone). I will probably take a while to get rid of the marks the itching has given me. So what? I have other things to be grateful for (family, friends and the most supportive husband). And on a shallow note, I have a glowing complexion (my face has thankfully been spared) and I haven’t sprouted 15 chins yet. From the outside I look perfectly pregnant – which is kind of why I wanted to speak up in this blog post (and be all vulnerable and sh*t). I want other people out there to realise we never know what’s going on under the surface. Things aren’t always what they seem. Don’t beat yourself up or feel inferior over a mere perception of other people’s supposed perfection (that kind of rhymes – I should write lyrics for Panic! At The Disco or something).

I’ve got to step up and become less about my insecurities (and worrying about the things I can’t control) and more about the safety and happiness of my baby. I’ve got to get mentally strong even though this skin condition (whatever the hell it is) has a way of making me into the craziest lady. And I mean CRAYYY-ZEEEEE.

When’s the last time you had to be mentally strong? How did you find a way to cope? Seriously, I’m going to be taking notes…

Edited Update: I have been diagnosed with PUPPP or Polymorphic Eruption of Pregnancy (feel free to google it). I am now using an ointment which seems to give some relief, although it won’t actually cure it. Thanks for your comments and support x